Chinese Firms, Executives Endorse Grueling “996” Working Hours

  • Huawei offered Japanese graduates twice the normal salary in recruiting— with a catch.
  • It is said that “mattress culture” is prevalent in Huawei and other advanced Chinese companies.
  • Alibaba's Jack Ma works 9127, not 996: from 9 AM to 12 noon, seven days a week.

In the ranking of fashionable Chinese words in 2019, the concept “996” was included. Alibaba President Jack Ma introduced it into everyday life. It means that a person works six days a week from 9:00 in the morning until 9:00 in the evening. Since he was sharply criticized, Jack Ma disowned the word, but in modern China, this is not uncommon.

Alibaba Group Holding Limited, (also known as Alibaba Group and as Alibaba), is a Chinese multinational conglomerate holding company specializing in e-commerce, retail, Internet, and technology. Alibaba is the world’s largest retailer and e-commerce company, one of the largest Internet and artificial intelligence companies, one of the biggest venture capital firms, and one of the biggest investment corporations in the world.

Japanese workers learned about the telecommunications company Huawei for the first time thanks to their recruiting announcements. Huawei offered an unprecedented initial salary for university graduates with no work experience: ¥400,000 ($3,700). This was twice what Japanese graduates were usually paid at the time.

Figures for Japan, and the Amount Paid in China

There, the monthly salary in Huawei is from $1,800 to $ 2,700. In terms of the annual amount, approximately $6,500 is obtained, including various subsidies. For 30–40 year-old Japanese people, this is not a particularly surprising amount. However, at Huawei, 20–30 year-old employees are paid such a salary.  Nevertheless, according to the Chinese, this is a low salary taking into account working conditions. They even say that only young people with good physical abilities can work at Huawei.

The concept number “996″ is still like flowers. Some work from 9 AM to 11 PM, and some generally up to one or two nights. Therefore, $2,700 per month is not so much. It turns out that working at Huawei is a “hardening” or “training for work.”

The Terrifying Situation with a “Mattress Culture”

Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is a Chinese multinational technology company, providing technological equipment and consumer electronics. It is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world, and the second-largest smartphone manufacturer, behind Samsung. Huawei has been heavily criticized for cybersecurity concerns and surveillance usage by the Chinese government.

It is said that “mattress culture” is prevalent in Huawei and other advanced Chinese companies.  The offices have not only sofas but also mattresses. If you work late, you can sleep on the mattress. In the morning you get up and continue to work. This is called “mattress culture.”

Facts regarding this situation are periodically reported on Chinese social networks. There are links to personal blogs that talk about calling a taxi from the office at 3:00 in the morning or about the suicide of an employee due to overwork. It is not known whether this is fact or fiction.

Physical forces have limits, even if you are young. Recently, a concept such as “996 ICU” is also gaining popularity. It refers to a person who works on the system “996” and in the end gets into intensive care unit (ICU).  This is not going anywhere. Statements by stellar managers that drag the Chinese economy along are scary.

According to rumors, at a meeting at Alibaba, Ma said the following: “This is my personal opinion, but the possibility of implementing the 996 principle is happiness. Many people and companies want to work on this system, but they cannot.” Ma also added, that he personally does not work on 996, but on 9127. That is, from 9 AM to 12 noon, seven days a week.

Other Executives Made Similar Comments

According to the president of Jingdong Mall, Liu Qiangdong, at first, he worked on the principle of “8116 + 8.” In other words, from 8 AM to 11 PM six days a week, plus 8 hours on Sunday. The managers do not impose 995 or 996, says Liu. However, he ads that all Tokyo employees are required to work hard.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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